Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Basilica of San Francesco


A visit by Saint Francis of Assisi to Bologna in 1222 sparked interest in building a major church for the Franciscans serving the city. The Gothic Basilica of San Francesco was completed in 1263.

Enhancements added later include a Venetian marble altar sculpted by Jacobello and Pier Pabla dalle Masegne.

Pope Alexander V (1339-1410), one of the “antipopes” reigning during the time of the schism resulting in competing popes ruling from Avignon, is entombed here. He died unexpectedly one night in Bologna while in the sole company of one of his cardinals. The cardinal was elevated to become Pope John XXIII (1370-1419), leaving a cloud of suspicion lingering in the minds of some.

Aside from a few takeovers for usage as military barracks or weapons storage, including the French in 1796 and an Italian war in 1842, the church has remained under the auspices of the Franciscans since then.

Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Distracting details demanding attention everywhere you glance


Roaming Bologna at a fast pace seemed impossible – so many things demand attention.

Postcards from last summer demand attention even as I launch a new trip. One of the things I wanted to bring home was the leaf design for downtown tree grates.

What’s up top counts


Went to a reunion of the three sisters over the holidays in Plano. As we drove places, I rudely kept remarking about the amount of rooftops. The mountaintops of shingles jut over the high privacy fences abutting most thoroughfares, one after another, all looking the same and periodically punctuated by strip retail on corners that all look the same as well.

Roofing must be less expensive than masonry because it appears the second floors were mainly shingled surfaces. After the violent hailstorms this past year, I would think a company such as USAA would offer major insurance rate discounts for the reverse.

Perhaps the rooftops were so noticeable to me because new subdivisions lack mature trees to break up the sea of roofs. How in the world can Santa tell the houses apart?

My observations of this unwelcome repetition is not meant as a criticism of Plano. It applies equally to the unimaginative architecture in developments ringing all major cities and every growing community in Texas.

Of course, I certainly would not want to see our flat rooftop replicated throughout a neighborhood. We live in a loft reclaimed from a small inartistic factory, but it is tucked in the middle of a rooftop-rich neighborhood. I’m spoiled by the total lack of cookie-cutter uniformity in the King William Historic District.

I snapped a few photos the other morning of views you would see if privacy fences ringed these structures. Fortunately, the facades are not blocked by fences, but I wanted to focus on rooftops. With the pecans and oak trees standing naked, this is one of the few seasons you can see most of these. Retaining their leaves, live oaks conceal some rooflines. As much as I wanted to include treetops silhouetted against the blue sky, I decapitated most of the palms to concentrate on what is on top of the structures.

The diverse attention paid to the design of roofs and their underpinnings is not restricted to Victorian mansions; builders of modest cottages demonstrated elevated aesthetic concerns as well.

So sorry I did not pass by my favorite onion-top roof, but knew I already had taken way more photos than necessary to make my point. Neighborhoods are more interesting when attention is paid to individualizing architectural design, and adding jewels to the crowns of buildings makes a walkable neighborhood even more so.

Apologies to my sister in Plano for my rooftop criticism, but I’m totally spoiled. What’s up top matters a lot to both Santa and me.